How Do I Know I am Elect by A.W. Pink
I copied this list from a friend’s blog, I comment on it here. You will see that I have obvious problems with the theology espoused below. I tried to take this point by point on the comments section of his blog, but perhaps it was too long. So I’m going to do it here. Realize that this is reformed doctrine. This whole question is much easier answered by Lutherans saying “I am baptized.” That is we don’t doubt that God has saved us because he elected us in baptism, that is chose us for his own. The list is in quotations.
"How may I know I'm elect?”
What drives a person to even ask this question? It is doubt. The question betrays doubt, doubt that Christ actually died for you. This doubt becomes critical in reformed circles because they don’t believe Jesus really died for everyone in the world, but only the elect. The elect not being elected or called by the gospel, but being chosen way back when apart from any means such as the gospel or baptism which in reformed theology can at best awaken the election. These things cannot effect election. This is because they refuse to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through these things, believing that this would compromise the “sovereignty of God.” God has to be able to work apart from means. No doubt he can. But he chooses to work through them according to scripture, Romans 10 for instance.
“First, by the Word of God having come in divine power to the soul so that my self-complacency is shattered and my self-righteousness is renounced.”
So this is the first point on the list. How do I know I am elect? I’m no longer self-complacent or self-righteous, except for when I am. I mean really? Base your salvation on the fact that you are no longer self-complacent. You are doing your part, not like those complacent Christians down the street content to go to work and be good husbands, fathers, mothers and wives during the week and occasionally share the gospel with a friend when opportunity arises. No, you get up every morning and in a very non self-righteous way go knock on doors telling people about Christ and how they can be sure of their election when they get rid of their self-complacency and self-righteousness. Then we can all be self-righteous about how unself-righteous we all are...
Do you see why I don’t buy this one as anything that produces assurance?
“Second, by the Holy Spirit convicting me of my woeful, guilty, and lost condition.”
A second dose of navel gazing, anyone? Are you that convicted? Sure the Holy Spirit does this, he will convict of us these things. But of course there are many people in this world who believe they are woeful, guilty and lost. Many people out there have come to those conclusions quite apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. So how do you know it was the Holy Spirit that has convicted you of this?
“Third, by having had revealed to me the suitability and sufficiency of Christ to meet my desperate case and by a divinely given faith causing me to lay hold of and rest upon Him as my only hope.”
Almost the gospel, which is to say it is not the gospel. Of course if I believed that Christ died for me and that was enough I wouldn’t really be asking if I was elect in the first placed. Notice the wishy washy language here that goes along with the doctrine of election. Christ is suitable and sufficient to meet your desperate cause, but you have no assurance that he actually has. He is your only hope, that is for sure. But with this language there isn’t a whole lot of certainty in that hope. Because though he is suitable and sufficient, he really hasn’t done it for you unless you are elect. And the whole thing begs the question. Notice nothing here of Christ actually having done all for you and saving you with his death on the cross. No mention of the Cross as the propitiation of sins. No mention of that objective and perfect sacrifice where he died for the sins of the whole world. Just this bit about if he wants to he could save you, he is a sufficient and suitable savior for you if he chooses to be so, but whether or not he has is another thing all together. But in the meantime he is your only hope. Well that and your ability to shed self-complacency and self-righteousness. Good luck with that.
“Fourth, by the marks of the new nature within me - a love for God; an appetite for spiritual things; a longing for holiness; a seeking after conformity to Christ."
And another dose of navel gazing, let’s go look for the marks of the new nature WITHIN ME. I know I’m elect because I have the zeal and love for God of a Muslim terrorist. Let’s not forget that Saul before he was Paul, still loved God, or thought he did. Much better to know that God loves you.
But if that is not enough by itself, then you also have the appetite for spiritual things of a Wiccan priestess dancing nude in the forest. Spiritual things, these days that has a wide meaning. That appetite can have you consuming spiritual things all the way to hell. But even if it is an appetite for Christian spiritual things it becomes a bit tenuous, how much of an appetite do you have? It is great to spend time in devotions, prayer, and study of theology. I encourage my members to do this stuff all the time. But I’m not about to write the members of my congregation as being un-elect because they only come to church irregularly, and don’t exhibit much of an appetite for spiritual things.
A longing for holiness? Well who doesn’t have that? Seriously, who doesn’t have that? Hindu’s desire to be Holy. Zoroastrians desire to be holy. Of course if you are baptized you are holy, because there the Holy Spirit sanctified you with the washing of the water and the word (Ephesians 5:26) . There Christ set you apart as His, that is as holy. So you don’t have to desire it anymore, just realize that you actually are holy. (Warning life accordingly may follow.)
A seeking after conformity to Christ, well do you seek to conform to Christ? I’m not always sure what that means. Does it mean I should grow a beard and go homeless? Is it trying to mimic his personality like a drugstore cowboy doing a John Wayne impression? Don’t get me wrong, I believe a Christian is being conformed to Christ daily. I’m just not sure that this has to be an actively sought thing. We study his word and repent of our sins, that is fine. But trying to figure out exactly what Christ would do in any given situation and basing our “heilsgewissheit”, salvation assurance, on how well we do? Well I don’t think that is good advice at all. Some days I might think I do well on other days not so well. And truth be told I’m probably wrong on both accounts.
“Fifth, by the resistance which the new nature makes to the old, causing me to hate sin and loathe myself for it.”
So I should know that I am elect, because despite the fact that Christ loves me, I loathe myself? I suppose there is a time for a bit of self loathing. But I wouldn’t do too much of it. Loathing sin is one thing. But I think there is a backhanded command to love yourself when we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. If we loathe ourselves we might just interpret this to mean we can loathe our neighbors too. This is just downright awful. Look at it. We are to know God loves us, based on the fact that we hate, sorry, loathe ourselves. Sorry, not buying into that one. I can hate my sin without going down that road
“Sixth, by avoiding everything which is condemned by God's Word and by sincerely repenting of and humbly confessing every transgression. Failure at this point will surely bring a dark cloud over our assurance causing the Spirit to withhold His witness.”
Check me into the psyche ward now. They say this isn’t a works righteousness? Now I base my assurance of salvation on two impossibilities, one that I avoid everything condemned in God’s word. I’m not even sure what all that is? I know the Ten Commandments, and a few other things. But that is just it even the Psalmist complains that one cannot know all his sins. Psalm 19:12 (ESV)
Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
So how do I know I repent of all of them? How am I to “humbly confess every transgression? I think I heard of a man who tried that, oh yeah, Martin Luther. It didn’t go so well according to my biography. It led to something called the Reformation. That was good but it was a total renunciation of the above theology.
“Seventh, by giving all diligence to cultivate the Christian graces and using all diligence to this end. Thus the knowledge of election is cumulative."
Gibberish. I am not even sure what the above said. It does put the pressure on me though. I get that part. I’m to know I am elect when I give all diligence to cultivating Christian graces, all diligence mind you. This doesn’t just mean diligently working to cultivate Christian graces but giving all diligence to this. I’m not sure what is meant by Christian graces either. Maybe I don’t have any? I imagine this to mean those silly things that Christians do to try show they are Christians. You know: avoid bars, replace cussing with Ned Flanders Syndrome (I hate Ned Flanders Syndrome. Say it or don’t, but you just sound stupid saying fudge.) praying with a nonsensical use of the word just, as in Lord I just etc. But when other people can see you are a Christian by your graces, perhaps you have it? Not a chance.
There is a better way of knowing you are elect. That is you are elect because you are baptized into Christ. He made promises there, and he doesn’t break them. He forgave your sins there, and gave you the Holy Spirit, see Acts 2:38-39. He saved you. He died for you. You can be certain of that. God doesn’t do things half way.
This list was taken from:
- A .W. Pink, The Doctrines of Election and Justification [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974], pp. 140-41.